Ballymena United boss Roy Walker says he firmly supports the supporters’ boycott of the Dungannon Swifts clash on Tuesday night.
A group of Sky Blues fans will not be making the trip to Stangmore Park in protest at the club being fined over allegations of racist remarks aimed at Swifts goalkeeper Alvin Rouse at a match in August.
United were fined £1,250 by the Irish Football Association but club officials and supporters feel the club has suffered a gross travesty of justice.
The fans, who are clearly still outraged by the IFA’s punishment, plan to attend a reserve game and will help the club pay the fine.
Walker says he completely understands the fans’ response and he warmly applauds their actions.
“I absolutely understand what they are doing and I applaud them for taking a stance in this way,” said the Showgrounds supremo.
“The team is 100 per cent behind them. In these moments there needs to be a circling of the wagons and everyone at the football club is singing from the same hymn sheet.
“We are working together in the right way and I support their actions. The fans don’t want to see the football club suffer in this way and their actions make perfect sense.
“Funds will be raised and the message is going out that everyone completely disagrees with the sentence imposed on the club.
“The supporters feel strongly about this matter and they are doing the right thing. Knowing some of them as I do, I know they will be tuned into their radios keen to know how the team they support are doing.”
When the fine was announced, United took the case to the IFA Disciplinary Appeals Board, providing video evidence to back their case, but failed to get the verdict overturned.
Walker was left shaking his head in disbelief at the IFA’s decision and some of the football body’s rules and actions still leave him bemused.
“This is not a rant against the IFA, I express my opinion calmly and as someone who wants to see justice done and matters dealt with in a fair manner,” added Walker.
“I want the IFA to be a professional organisation that operates with integrity and I don’t like it when they are held up to ridicule.
“That does not do the game any favours. But we have outdated rules like the one that prevented Peter Thompson from playing in the County Antrim Shield final while our own Gary Muir cannot play in the Irish Cup as well as Sammy Morrow and Rory Hamill at Coleraine and Glenavon.
“And the IFA should look at how they hand out sentences and whether they are fair and how they can be followed up. There is a right to appeal but I feel that evidence is not looked at closely and you are met with closed minds.
“Punishments have not fitted the crime.”
On the pitch, United have much more to cheer about after securing three wins on the spin.
However, basement battlers Lisburn Distillery will not be lacking motivation at Ballyskeagh this afternoon. The good news for Sky Blues fans is that their ace marksman Kevin Kelbie has found his shooting boots, netting five times in three outings.
“We are seeing the best of Kevin now,” said Walker.
“I have had a few chats with him and we all acknowledge that reputations do not win football matches.
“To be fair to him, he has been carrying an injury but now he is getting a run in the team and is now expressing himself in the way we know he can.
“The Saturday, Tuesday matches have worked well for him and that’s one of the main reasons why he is firing again.
“There is a greater consistency to his game and this frequent run in the team will be good for him and ourselves as we show respect to every team in this tough league.”